This blog follows the latest trends in high performance housing from an insider's perspective. I am the General Manager of one of Ottawa's leading homebuilders - Urbandale Construction, and it gives me a firsthand view of how the industry is changing. I've seen the barriers that builders face when trying to market new technologies and I've been working directly to overcome these barriers to bring new energy efficient designs into Urbandale homes.

February 3, 2014 1 Comment

3D Printing Houses – An innovative vision for the future of housing


Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis at the University of Southern California is developing a completely new way to build houses using a large-scale version of 3D printing technology.  This innovative approach, called Contour Crafting, works by using a large robotic arm with a nozzle that can spray fast drying concrete in layers according to a predetermined design.  According to Khoshnevis, once fully developed his system will be able to build a 2,000 square foot house, including plumbing and electrical, in 24 hours and for 1/5th the cost of conventional construction.

There are many potential benefits to this approach besides the obvious time and cost savings.  This approach would have zero waste materials, fewer greenhouse gas emissions than regular construction due to the lower embodied energy of this approach, significant safety benefits for workers, and fewer labour issues (though that may not be considered a benefit to everyone).

Dr. Khoshnevis and his team envision the technology being used to produce affordable housing, shelters for disaster relief, and most intriguing, future dwellings on the moon and mars!

I’m a big fan of factory built housing.  I feel that the construction industry is far behind other industries in using automation to improve the manufacturing process.  Contour Crafting takes the factory built housing concept to the next level by fully automating all aspects of construction.  Granted, if it became commonplace this approach would make much of our construction labour force obsolete, however I see it as part of the larger, gradual shift in the workforce from an industrial society to an information based society.  To put it another way, automation has already transformed almost every other manufacturing industry, and for the most part society has been able to adapt and benefit from the changes.  Besides, these changes happen very gradually and the technology would be used in niche applications only for many years as the industry adapts.

Contour Crafting is still in its infancy and I believe there are still many technical challenges that need to be overcome before it can be used in real-life applications.  As an engineer, I have some practical questions regarding its use (like how they get the concrete to dry so quickly- a major issue in conventional construction), but I believe the technical problems can be overcome.  Conceptually, this is a completely innovative approach to automating the construction process, and I think that research into these types of areas are long overdue.

Posted by Matthew

One Response to "3D Printing Houses – An innovative vision for the future of housing"

  1. That is pretty cool. 3D printing is something that has interested me for a while. Can you imagine equipment pulling up to your building lot and then 24 hours later your home is pretty much ready?

    That is some unreal technology! I’m not sure how soon they’ll get to test it on mars or the moon but that’s another pretty cool concept as well. They have some lofty goals.


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Matthew Sachs


  • General Manager of Urbandale Construction since May 2008
  • Vice-Chair R-2000 Renewal Committee
  • Member of Energy Star Technical Advisory Committee
  • Greater Ottawa Homebuilders Green Committee
  • Recipient of Canadian Homebuilder’s Association 2009 R-2000 Builder of the Year Award
  • Participant in Natural Resources Canada’s Technology Roadmap for Sustainable Housing
  • Energy Consultant with Marbek Resource Consultants (Feb 2002 – May 2006)


Ottawa's Quality Homebuilder for 30 Years. Building R-2000 and Energy Star Homes in Kanata Lakes, Riverside South, & Bridlewood in Ottawa, and in eQuinelle in Kemptville. For more information on Urbandale Construction, please visit